Italian F1 squad hadn’t won an F1 race since Vettel’s victory in Singapore in 2015, while Mercedes dominated in last three season.
Vettel, who started alongside pole-sitter Hamilton, had said after qualifying he hoped for a good start to reel in Mercedes. Hamilton got away smoothly and having broke clear of Vettel, was first to pit on lap 18 to change tyres.
But, it proved a turning point in the race as the Brit rejoined behind Max Verstappen and was then unable to pass the aggressive Dutch teenager, Hamilton venting on the team radio as Vettel forged ahead.
Sebastian pitted at lap 23 and exited the pit-lane just in front of Verstappen, who was still gamely holding off Hamilton.
“It’s a long, long way ahead. For now, we’re just over the moon,” four-time world champion Vettel said following the race. “It’s been a hard winter, and an incredible race today. We’re here, we’re here to fight.”
Vettel, with four world titles under his belt and now a 43rd Grand Prix win, said:
“It’s unbelievable. It was quite mad in a positive way with people running towards the pits with flags.
“It’s what we needed. The guys have been working really hard and not getting much sleep. It’s a really fun car to drive.”
“I was not entirely happy with my start, there was a bit of wheelspin, but I was trying to keep the pressure on to give the message that we are here to fight. There was a bit of luck that Lewis came out in traffic.
“You can push these cars until the end.”